Green energy spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. the Stimulus, a.k.a., the Porkulus, has notched another failure: Energy Conversion Devices, a manufacturer of solar rooftop panel components and recipient of $13 million in Stimulus money, yesterday announced it is going bankrupt.
This blog repeatedly has warned that stimulus spending is a green albatross burdening the President. Indeed, I argue that the green jobs component of the Porkulus—about $60 billion in taxpayer giveaways—was doomed to failure. For starters, the whole idea of the Stimulus was to defibrillate the economy by spending a trillion dollars as fast as possible, and this is a recipe for waste. By way of example, the Energy Department received roughly double its normal budget, and was basically ordered to have the money out the door within two years and ten months. This was an overwhelming mandate. DOE had neither the time nor the manpower to properly vet outlays.
More fundamentally, government is terrible at picking horses. It’s nice to think of disinterested civil servants doing their best to safeguard taxpayer investments, but in reality, powerful political forces are doing everything in their power to influence how this money is spent. When Members of Congress aren’t pushing for pet projects in their respective districts, crony capitalists in the administration are guiding taxpayer money to their portfolios. The headline of an excellent Washington Post story from today says it all: “Venture capitalists play key role in Obama’s Energy Department.” Of course, political expediency and crony capitalism are poor investment strategies. As a result, green energy Stimulus spending is prone to embarrassment.
Solyndra is only the most spectacular failure. Nary a week passes without a politically favored green energy company hitting the skids. See: Amonix, Evergreen Solar, local reporting of “green jobs” training failures, Beacon Power, the ongoing Solyndra saga, underperforming electric vehicle sales, Ener1, Fisker Automotive…and now Energy Conversion Devices.
Mr. President, are you still sure that you want to “double down” on green energy giveaways?